God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1

By W. Robert Godfrey
Phillipsburg, NJ : P&R Publishing (2003). 141 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Trevor Craigen
15.1 (Spring 2004) : 117-118

An upfront, candid response explains the curtness of this review: it is a disappointing book. Period. Godfrey takes a fresh look at Genesis 1–2 by way of a covenantal reading, but offers to his target audience [thoughtful Christians and not specialists] nothing more than the framework hypothesis and what other theories which ‘elasticize’ the text have already offered. What makes it so hard to accept the plain, clear meaning of the text? Why is creation in six twenty-four hour days so unacceptable? It is even more disturbing when this is done by one who affirms the text as having been inspired by God and as being part of the inerrant revelation given through Moses. Instead, supposedly, the discernible chiasma, various patterns, triads, complex use of seven, ten, and three, and the different perspectives provided by Genesis 1 and 2, all indicate that the creation account has multiple elements around which to structure any study. Again, the work stresses that days are no t to be focused upon.

That the creation account tells of God is acknowledged. That it informs of God giving order and assigning function to what He made is also admitted. That it tells of the time duration for creation is definitely not acknowledged. Instead, the Genesis account presents a model of God working, of the setting up of a weekly rhythm for human life, and oftelling about the appearance and meaning of creation for God’s image-bearer. It is not an encyclopedia of history or science but a covenant revelation of the character of the creation that God made for man. One must come to the account trusting and confident that this is God’s Word written by Moses as part of the inerrant revelation of God, who would teach the reader. One must read very carefully and thoughtfully.

Godfrey accuses those who hold to the notion of twenty-four-hour days of various flaws in treating the text and in defining day. All accusations are patently baseless, and one is also deliberately misleading—the days of creation are not the focus of attention and contribute nothing to the time-duration of God’s creative activity. He makes the astounding proposal that Day One and Day Four refer to the same creative act of God, but from a different perspective. So, no chronology and sequence, but then later he affirms chronology and sequence in the week. The seminal articles by Gerhard Hasel and David Tsumura were simply overlooked. Why?

The limited bibliography is to be expected of what is at best a genre of “reflective musings.” Calmly, Godfrey insists that the interpretation offered has followed John Calvin’s method of literal, historical-grammatical interpretation with the result that the responsible exegesis done should be tolerable in conservative Protestant circles. When the reading is finished, however, the question lingers: Was this really a responsible treatment of the text? This reviewer thinks not. That is best left as the final word.